In towns most people probably prefer to purchase their stock of buns from a confectioner, but in country places it is usual to have them made at home, and if many buns are required it is a decided gain to the housekeeping purse, for they can be made for less money than they can be bought - viz., twenty-four for 1s. 2d.
Required: One and three-quarter pounds of flour. One ounce of compressed yeast. One ounce of mixed spice. Quarter of a pound of butter. Quarter of a pound of sugar. Quarter of a pound of currants or sultanas, or two level teaspoonfuls of caraway seeds. Two eggs.
Two ounces of mixed peel. Three-quarters of a pint of milk. A pinch of salt. (Sufficient for twenty-four buns.)
Sieve together half a pound of the flour, the spice, and salt. Put the yeast in a small basin with a teaspoonful of castor sugar, mix them together with a spoon until they are liquid. Make the milk lukewarm and pour it on to the yeast, mixing them both well together. Be careful to see that the milk is not hot, for if it is it will kill the yeast and make it quite useless; for the same reason do not use cold water. Make a hole in the middle of the flour, strain in the milk and yeast gradually, mixing them smoothly in with a wooden spoon. Cover the basin with a piece of paper, and let it stand in a warm place for half an hour, or until the surface is covered with bubbles.
Sieve the rest of the flour into a large basin, rub the butter lightly into it. Chop the peel fairly finely, and clean and stalk the fruit; add these, with the sugar, to the flour.
When the sponge in the first basin is ready - that is, when the surface is covered with bubbles - add some of the dry ingredients, then a little beaten egg, and so on until all are mixed in, beating the mixture well with the hand. Continue this beating until the dough can be pulled out of the basin, leaving it quite clean. Cover the basin again with paper, and put it in a warm place until the surface of the dough is covered with cracks. It will probably take one and a half hours.
Next shape the mixture into small round balls, place them on slightly greased baking-tins at a good distance apart. Mark the shape of a cross on the top of each with the back of a knife. Place the tins in a warm place for twenty minutes, or until they have risen and are half as large again.
Then bake them in a quick oven for about half an hour.
If the buns are liked with a glazed surface, brush them over with milk in which has been dissolved a little sugar and butter. Allow about two teaspoonfuls of sugar and a scrap of butter to a tablespoonful of milk.
N.B. - If quite plain buns are preferred, omit the fruit or caraways, and add merely the spice: the quantity of this can be varied to suit individual taste, but hot cross buns are, as a rule, rather highly spiced.